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Rudy Hubbard, Buckeyes' first Black assistant coach, named to College Football Hall of Fame

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Rudy Hubbard, shown on Ohio State's coaching staff in 1969, was hired as the first minority assistant coach at OSU by coach Woody Hayes, seated with glasses. [Dispatch file photo]

Rudy Hubbard, Ohio State's first Black assistant coach, is one of 13 inductees in the College Football Hall of Fame's 2021 class.

The Hall of Fame announced its newest inductees Monday.

"It means the world," Hubbard told The Dispatch. "I was beginning to think I would never really get appreciated until I pass away. I see that happen so often."

More:Rudy Hubbard reflects on his time at Ohio State and the issue of race

Hubbard played for Woody Hayes at Ohio State from 1965-67 before becoming an assistant the next year. He stayed for six years before taking the head coaching job at Florida A&M. He led the Rattlers to the 1978 Division I-AA (now FCS) national title, the only historically Black college and university program to do so.

"Rudy was a pioneer," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. "He opened doors for other Black football coaches at Ohio State and all of college football. His impact on players at OSU from 1968 to '73 was significant."

Hubbard, who now lives in Florida, grew up in Youngstown and committed to Ohio State despite misgivings about its reputation for how it treated Black players. His own playing career was a disappointment until he rushed for 103 yards in a 1967 upset of Michigan, a victory that some believed saved Hayes' job.

When Hubbard gave a speech at a banquet at his high school criticizing Hayes, who was in attendance, he did so believing he wouldn't see Hayes again, let alone have a coaching career.

"Never," Hubbard said. "Not in a million years. I thought that was the end of it. I just thought we would never have anything to say to each other anymore."

Instead, to his amazement, Hayes offered him a job as running backs coach two weeks later. Hubbard became part of a staff that coached the "Super Sophs" 1968 team to the national title. He became a mentor to subsequent Black players at OSU, including Cornelius Green and Archie Griffin. Green credited Hubbard's support for helping him cope with racist comments when he became Ohio State's first Black quarterback, in 1973.

"I am so happy for coach Hubbard," Green said. "He is so deserving of this prestigious award."

More:Ohio State football's history with race source of both shame and pride

The other coach elected to the Hall of Fame is another Youngstown native, former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. The players elected include two former Cincinnati Bengals, Carson Palmer and David Fulcher. The other inductees are Dan Morgan, Tony Romo, Kenneth Sims, C.J. Spiller, Darren Sproles, Aaron Taylor, Andre Tippett and Al Wilson.

Hubbard, 74, will be inducted for his tenure at Florida A&M, but he remains a Buckeye at heart and keeps up with the team. He said he is thrilled to join so many other Ohio State coaches in the Hall of Fame, including Hayes, Earle Bruce, John Cooper and Jim Tressel.

"You're talking about some high cotton," he said. "You called off some serious names. Those are all great coaches. I like to think I was one, too, so it means the world to me because I didn't think I'd ever get recognized as one."

Hubbard didn't have to be told the announcement of his induction came on the day Ohio State is playing for the national championship.

"I'm just hoping the Buckeyes can come through now," he said.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch